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Hungary’s president under pressure to quit over pardon in sex abuse case

In World
February 07, 2024

BUDAPEST – Hungarian opposition parties have demanded the resignation of the president over her decision to pardon a man convicted as an accomplice in helping cover up a case in a children’s home whose director sexually abused children.

While Katalin Novak’s decision to pardon some two dozen people in April 2023, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis, had been known, Hungarian news outlet 444.hu reported, citing court documents, that the home’s deputy director was among them.

That has set off a storm of protest against Novak, who is a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his former family minister.

Novak’s office and the government spokesman did not reply to emailed Reuters questions on Wednesday.

“Under my presidency there has not been, and won’t be, pardon for paedophiles and this was so in this case as well,” state news agency MTI quoted her as saying on Tuesday. She added that the reasoning behind her decision was not public and all pardons were divisive by their nature.

The former deputy director of the home who she pardoned had been sentenced to more than 3 years in prison and banned for 5 years from working with under-18s for being an accomplice to the home’s director in forcing some of the boys to withdraw their accusations.

The former director was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing several under-age boys in 2004-2016.

Opposition parties the Democratic Coalition, Momentum, LMP, Parbeszed, Jobbik and the Socialists have demanded that Novak should resign. The far-right Mi Hazank (Our Homeland) has also sharply criticised her.

“I am baffled by Katalin Novak’s decision as a human being and as a mother,” Momentum chair Anna Donath said in a statement on Wednesday, adding she believed the decision was “morally incomprehensible”.

Some of the parties also called for Orban’s ruling Fidesz party to recall its lawmaker and former justice minister Judit Varga, who signed off on the pardons. She has been widely tipped to lead the party’s list for European parliament elections this year.

Some of the opposition and civilians called a protest in front of Novak’s presidential office for Friday. REUTERS

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